Polenta with Mascarpone and Roasted Winter Vegetables

While I on the east coast, I was able to spend the night in New Jersey and see a whole slew of relatives that I hadn’t visited in years.  We had a fantastic evening, with lots of laughter, wine, and tons good food.  The theme was some kind of vague California-Italian, but not really on purpose.

MENU

  • Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe and Lemon
  • Auntie’s Stuffed Manicotti
  • Creamy Polenta with Mascarpone
  • Roasted Mushrooms With Red Wine
  • Roasted Winter Vegetables
  • Baby Lettuces with Mustard Vinaigrette and Fennel
  • Chevre Cheesecake with Pear Sauce

I’ve adapted two of the recipes for a much smaller group, since they are delicious, easy, and shouldn’t just be for big dinner parties.

I often hear mixed opinions about polenta, with complaints about mushiness and texture. To those people, I say: Stop whining! Go get a spoon!

If you look at other polenta recipes, you will notice that there is an absurd amount of cheese in this one. A better name for this recipe might be “Giant Bowl O’Cheese.” Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  You really have to try this though!

POLENTA WITH PARMESAN AND MASCARPONE

makes about 4 servings

cook time: 30 minutes

  • 1 cups cornmeal
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 3 tbs. mascarpone
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese plus 1/4 c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. dried onions (usually from McCormick)
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper
  1. Bring 1 c. of chicken stock to a boil in a large pot. Turn the heat to low, and gradually whisk in the cornmeal (Don’t just pour it all in at once!).
  2. When the mixture comes to a simmer, add in the other 2 cups of chicken broth.  Stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried onions. Whisk the mixture  for 10-15 more minutes (this makes sure it cooks evenly, doesn’t get clumpy, and doesn’t stick to the bottom). The polenta should be fairly thick now, but if you like it thicker feel free to cook it another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Turn the flame to very very low (so you don’t burn the cheese), and stir in the mascarpone, parmesan, and cheddar cheese. Add more salt and pepper to taste, and top with shaved parmesan and cracked black pepper while it is still steaming hot.
winter greens from the garden.... into the oven with you!

This recipe is great because it’s so flexible. You can really pick whatever vegetables you like (my favorite combination is beets, sweet potatoes, and turnips).  This time I used buttercup squash from the pantry, rainbow carrots and winter greens from the garden, half a butternut squash I had sitting in the fridge, along with red onion, shallots, and garlic.

ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES

serves: as many as you want

cook time: 1.5 hrs.

  • an assortment of winter vegetables, whatever you like(carrots, beets, butternut squash, turnips, parsnips, cauliflower, beet greens, kale, etc.)
  • olive oil to coat liberally
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • chopped flat leaf parsley (probably about 1/4 c.) or other herbs you like (thyme,  rosemary, minced garlic or shallots, etc.)
  • shaved parmesan cheese for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash veggies thoroughly, and chop all of your vegetables into 1/2” cubes (roughly chop any greens into 1/2″ strips). I never peel beets, carrots or sweet potatoes, I like the texture of their skin when it roasts in olive oil.  Set aside greens to add in later.
  2. In a large bowl, toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh herbs (about 2 tbs. of herbs from a large mixing bowl of veggies will do fine).  Spread veggies over a cookie sheet and roast for 45 minutes. If you want to add any greens, take out the cookie sheet and mix them with all the veggies now. Cover with tin foil, and roast for another 20 minutes or so, or until veggies are cooked and nicely golden brown around the edges.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serve these roasted vegetables over polenta or rice, tossed with pasta, in a green salad, or however else you can think of!

 

 

     

    Orange Pecan Tea Bread

    I’m in upstate New York right now, visiting my parents for the first time in a great while.  If I ever decide to become a 400 lb. woman I will come here to do the dirty work…  My dad is a loves to cook and my mom is a fantastic baker. Even though we’re supposed to be in the New Years Resolution phase of the holiday season, the shelves are still stacked with cookies, chocolates, marzipan, and other delicious treats. Given this situation, and the fact that now she’s wandering around the house talking about making tiramisu this evening, I either need to put on my sneakers and go for a run or maybe just buy some bigger pants.

    Today I had warm Orange Pecan Tea Bread waiting for me when I woke up. It’s an adaptation of a recipe from Cooking Light, and a great way to use up some marmalade. My mom used the seville orange marmalade I made last winter, but you could use any type you have on hand.  She didn’t bother with the glaze (see step 4 below), it was delicious without it.  The citrus and buttermilk in this recipe will brighten up any winter day, no matter how snowy.

    I am a terrible baker, unlike my mother. I can’t be bothered with things like recipes and measuring. I don’t even own a tablespoon (I may have once, but I lost it).   The concept of preheating an oven is foreign to me, it’s either “hot” or “off.” Lasagna is ready when it’s bubbly and the cheese has nice golden brown spots, not when it’s been in the oven at 350 for an hour and fifteen minutes (this is a guess, I really am not sure how long I cook lasagna for).  I often get angry at recipes for trying to tell me what to do. The nerve of these people…

    If, unlike me, you can follow instructions, here’s  the original recipe from Cooking Light (December 2009 issue):

    Orange-Pecan Tea Bread

    • 7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 c.)
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
    • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
    • 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
    • 1/4 c. chopped pecans, toasted
    • 3 tbs. 1% low-fat milk
    • 3 tbs. canola oil
    • 3 tbs. orange marmalade
    • 2 tsp. grated orange rind
    • 2 large eggs
    • cooking spray
    • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
    • 1 tbs. fresh orange juice
    • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped pecans, toasted
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Combine granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients (through eggs), stirring with a whisk; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
    3. Spoon batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
    4. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring until smooth.  Drizzle glaze over bread, and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp. pecans.  Yield: 14 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

    Calories: 164; Fat: 5.4 g; Protein: 3g Carb: 26.6g; Fiber: 0.6g; Chol: 26 mg; Iron: 1 mg; Sodium: 136 mg; Calc: 46 mg.

    Pomelo Marmalade With Rosewater and Cardamom

    Welcome to my shiny new blog! I hope that you keep reading and maybe try out a few of the recipes and projects that will be appearing here. Check back often- 2011 should be a pretty action packed year. Anyway, enough with the introductions, time to make some marmalade!

    So, Reader, since we’re just getting to know each other, a few basics first-  If you want your jam to be really, really amazing the key is to get your hands on the highest quality, freshest fruit at the peak of the season.   Avoid grocery stores like the plague. Fruit should come from your own garden, your neighbor’s tree, a farmer that you know, or a local farmers market.  While buying local and organic is certainly very trendy right now, the reason to seek out this produce is really flavor.  Ethically, it is important to support small farms, cut down on your carbon footprint, etc., but the fact of the matter is that this fruit is just going to taste infinitely better.  If you were to do a blind taste test, the local, in season produce will win every time.  You’ll really know it’s time to make marmalade when you’re at the farmers market and you can actually smell the oranges and grapefruit before you can see them.

    Even though I live in California, it’s the dead of winter right now- pouring rain, freezing cold, dark at 4:30 pm.  I am dying to get on a plane and go somewhere exotic, where I will need a passport, sunblock, and a little book to translate common phrases like “this is the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen” and “why yes, freshly caught lobster sounds lovely,” or “a cocktail would be wonderful, thank you.” This marmalade is a little jar of happy intentions and new year’s resolutions to travel a little bit more and work in the garden a little bit less.  Oh, and it’s totally delicious,  floral, citrusy and exotic.

    Rosewater, green cardamom pods, and saffron add extra dimension.

    How to Prepare Fruit For Marmalade

    Of course you must start with sharp knives:

    This can get kind of tedious here. You might want to drink a beer or something  to make it more fun. Take your time and do a good job though, and you’ll be happy about it later when your friends are praising your excellent marmalade-making skills.

    We want only the colored, outer part of the rind.

    Stack the pieces of the rind on top of each other and slice through them to make julienned strips.

    Repeat with all the fruit. (Dream of tropical vacations!)

    Cut off the ends and the white part of the fruit.  Use your knife to separate the fruit from the membrane.

    Your prepared fruit should look something like this:

    Chop the wedges into small pieces. Put them into your pot.

    Pomelo Marmalade with Cardamom and Rosewater

    Ingredients:

    • 1 large pomelo
    • 2 oranges
    • 2 meyer lemons
    • 1 tsp. rosewater
    • 2 c. water
    • 1 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
    • 1/8 tsp. saffron (use either Spanish or Mexican depending on your budget)
    • 6 green cardamom pods
    • 5 c. sugar
    • 3 tsp. Pomona’s calcium water
    • 4 1/2 tsp. Pomona’s pectin powder
    1. Fill your canner with water and bring it to a boil. Wash jars and lids. Put jars on a cookie sheet in the oven at 150 degrees until you are ready to fill them.* Put the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water from the canner.
    2. Wash fruit thoroughly.
    3. Make calcium water (see instructions inside Pomona’s box). Measure 4 1/2 c. of sugar and set aside in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the other 1/2 c. sugar with the pectin powder and whisk well, making sure to avoid any clumps of pectin powder. Set aside.
    4. Using a small sharp knife or veggie peeler, remove outermost layer of the rind from the fruit, avoiding the white as much as possible.
    5. Working in batches, make small stacks of the colored rind and julienne into thin strips.
    6. To prepare the fruit for cooking, cut off the white rind, exposing the fruit inside.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut in between the membranes and each section of fruit, and lift out each wedge. Chop the prepared wedges, and set aside. (See illustrations below, in “How to prepare fruit for marmalade”
    7. Squeeze 1 c. fresh orange juice.
    8. In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the prepared fruit and rinds, 2 c. water, 1c. orange juice, 6 green cardamom pods, 2 tbs. rosewater, and 3 tsp. calcium water. Cover, and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until rinds are soft (about 30 minutes).
    9. Turn heat to medium high and stir in 4 1/2 c. sugar. Bring to a boil, and then stir in the pectin-sugar mixture. Bring to a full, rolling boil and cook for 1-2 minutes. (Marmalade will reach sheet stage)
    10. Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/8 inch headspace. Wipe rims clean and screw on lids. Process for 5 minutes.

    yield: about 8 half pint jars.

    *It is not really necessary to sterilize your jars in the oven, since they will be processed later. I’ve had jars crack in the canner when they weren’t hot though, so now I always do it. Hot jam, hot jars, hot water seems like the way to go.

    Recipe Ideas

    • Heat 1/2 c. marmalade with a few teaspoons of butter and a little chicken broth to make a sauce for sauteed chicken breasts, top with slivered almonds.
    • Mix with couscous (add the marmalade to the cooking broth). Garnish with chopped cilantro and toasted pine nuts.
    • Marinade for grilled lamb skewers (whisk together equal parts marmalade and olive oil, add a dash of mustard or vinegar for more acid). Serve with olives and pita bread.